Another entry for Amazin’ Avenue’s awful MSPaint contest
Another entry for Amazin’ Avenue’s awful MSPaint contest
I managed a brief rush through the Pre-Raphaelites exhibition at the Tate last week. Much of it was familiar to me thanks to the prevalence of the more labour-oriented and allegorical works among the municipal galleries of our provincial cities, though I’d also been to a wonderful Holman Hunt show in Manchester a year or two ago.
My opinion on the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood had, before I went to the Tate exhibition, been rather fixed for some time: that William Holman Hunt was the only true master among them, that Ford Madox Brown (not a PRB member but a close associate and prominent in the Tate show) had moments of genuine greatness, that John Everett Millais could paint but perhaps wasn’t so hot on composition/subject selection, and that Dante Gabriel Rossetti was one of the biggest hacks going, the Damien Hirst of his era.
This show, while enjoyable and rewarding, did nothing to alter my opinions (except perhaps raise Millais somewhat in my estimation). Holman Hunt towers above the rest, a real artistic giant, oozing pain and piety but melding his palette beautifully and imbuing the whole enterprise with a real heft. Of course everyone loves The Hireling Shepherd, The Light of the World and The Scapegoat, but I’m was most taken with The Shadow of Death and Isabella and the Pot of Basil.
Madox Brown has a few absolute gems. The Last of England has long been a favourite (those who know me won’t be surprised), but Work and The Pretty Baa-Lambs are both wonderful; Work and An English Autumn Afternoon, Hampstead draw me in particularly for their London-explorer interest.
Millais’ Christ in the House of his Parents (or Christ in the House of Bobby Charlton as it was always known in our house) was another highlight, though it dawned on me that as a child I always thought the dark-haired youth on the left was Jesus and that the stigmatised boy in the foreground was an interloper who had wandered into the workplace.
I can take or leave Burne-Jones and the rest of the mythological guff, but Rossetti really takes the biscuit; I think he’s a really terrible painter. The hype machine around him reminds of me of Damien Hirst and the Emperor’s New Clothes of crap Brit-Art. I almost said Rossetti reminds me of Peter Doherty, but that strikes me as rather unfair on the latter, for while he similarly is claimed as a sort of fin-de-siecle polymath, he at least is pretty good at one of his trades.
Anyhow, all told, I didn’t learn a great deal (which saddens me in a big exhibition) but then the boy was shouting his head off all day and we couldn’t linger, so perhaps I missed some subtleties. I’d never pass up the chance to see the wonderful Holman Hunts and Madox Browns though, so it was very much a worthwhile visit.
Don’t know why I thought of doing this, but it seemed very fitting when presented with this photo.
On Tuesday we undertook the second day of our Hadrian’s Wall run challenge. Day one had been difficult, due to my ongoing illness, and had really left us up against it on the second day – we had until around six ‘o’clock to finish, and where we had hoped to reach about 49 miles on day one, the time lost to various things (though mainly dashes into the bushes) meant we finished at around 41 miles. Nick also twisted his knee in a boggy field just at the end. We didn’t know how serious that would be until the next morning when it was clear he was in a lot of pain. I was also reduced to a slow pace to keep my guts in check, and we spent most of the second day at a walking pace – this put us at about 3 mph over the hilly middle section, and it rapidly became obvious we wouldn’t be able to get to Newcastle by evening. We ploughed on, eating up the miles at a steady rate – Housesteads, Brocolitia, Chollerford, Portgate… but once we got towards Wallhouses, Nick’s knees were becoming cripplingly painful. We’d had a lovely run of well maintained, relatively smooth grass surfaces, but on the way up to Harlow Hill we hit a series of waterlogged, boggy sections and heavy side-to-side gradients which knocked us out. We called in the support van (thanks again, Nic Sr.!) so Nick could try walking with poles, and we did the last few miles like that. Though progress had been slow on the day, we’d made almost thirty miles over some pretty hilly terrain at walking pace, and on top of the 41 miles on day one we feel like it was a decent achievement.
Nonetheless, it was frustrating not to be able to get to Wallsend. The time constraint, my illness and Nick’s knees all contributed to us ending up about twelve miles short or so. We’ll go back at some point to run that final stretch as soon as we can, but in the meantime we really hope nobody who sponsors us feels like we cheated or didn’t fulfil our attempt properly. Obviously if anyone is aggrieved let us know! Two other important points – first, and foremost, this was done to raise money for Refuge. As our donations page shows, we have reached around £1100 so far. Although it probably sounds trite, having Nick’s dad as our support team to come and help us when the pain got too much drove home exactly why I’d been running – there are hundreds of thousands of people with no support network who need Refuge to help them escape from domestic violence. Secondly, we had a good time – in spite of the pain, in spite of the indignity of dashing into the bushes every couple of miles, it was fun. The views were absolutely spectacular at points, and it was the first time I had really seen Hadrian’s Wall properly. Anyhow, here’s some photos from the two days. A video may follow later in the week…
Day one of our two-day challenge to cross the neck of northern England from Bowness-on-Solway in northern Cumbria to Wallsend in Newcastle to raise money for Refuge. We got up at five, were on the road at about quarter to six, and began running at about half past seven. The first stage went very well – Solway Firth and the Scottish coast were beautiful, and the weather was lovely: sun, a decent breeze, a bit of cloud cover. We stopped for our first snack and drink at Burgh by Sands before heading on towards Carlisle. This was the first tricky section as it included a fair number of large steps, something I’d had quite enough of in the Midsummer Munro at Box Hill. At about twenty past ten we rolled in to Carlisle, feeling strong, but there was a sign of a problem – I’d had to stop for an emergency al fresco toilet break with stomach cramps. On we went, leaving Carlisle along the River Eden and picking our way through a torrential rainstorm at Linstock.
Through Low Crosby and then looping around Carlisle Airport, we got our first real taste of the wall – the earthworks were clear, even if by this stage actual ‘wall’ was still not apparent. What was apparent, though, was that my stomach bug was getting worse. Unscheduled stops became increasingly frequent and I was slowing Nick up. We pressed on and arrived for lunch in Newtown with 23 miles under our belts. I began to flag badly at this point, and medical help was ineffective. I was sweating and dehydrated. We pushed on, but by Banks (28 miles) I was in a bit of a daze and I had to take a break in the support van. Nick carried on in stalwart fashion towards Birdoswald Fort. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to continue at all – though I wasn’t too tired or experiencing too many of the usual running pains, I was a liability needing to stop every ten minutes without warning.
Nick ran the next two sections solo – I missed about eight miles I think – but with the time lost to stops and associated slowness we were up against it by late afternoon. I rejoined the run for the last stage of the day – Cawfields to Steel Riggs. We had planned to run about nine more miles today, but fatigue, boggy ground and a torrential storm meant we stopped at 7pm. We must see how we can do tomorrow – the remaining 42 miles may prove too much. We will do our best. but if today’s problems stop us completing the whole challenge we can either come back to finish it as soon as possible or see if people accept as far as we get.
Tomorrow morning myself and a friend will begin a two day run of Hadrian’s Wall. From Bowness in the west to Wallsend in the east, we will take in 84 miles of what looks to be beautiful, rugged country. It is a charitable endeavour – and if you feel moved to sponsor us, you may do so here, for Refuge – but I have come to love running in a strange and contradictory way. As training for this, I have done half-marathons in Leeds, St Albans, the Cotswolds and around Box Hill – places I didn’t know well, which thanks to running I now feel acquainted with. I also appreciate the time I get when on road or trail to think and to consider. While I know it wrecks my legs, it helps my brain for sure.
I feel underprepared of course – I have been for almost every run I’ve ever undertaken, from my first 10K three years ago to the pair of marathons I’ve done. My feet have been problematic, though I’ve sort of fixed that with a combination of exercises and better footwear; I’m a good stone overweight; my knees have been dodgy for since I hit my teens; and I can feel the sinister forewarnings of shin splints. In anticipation of crippling wear-and-tear I have brought a walking stick north with me.
I am looking forward to it though. Tomorrow we will try to run about fifty miles, with about thirty on Tuesday. We’ll be up in six hours’ time, clad in lycra, sipping coffee and gearing ourselves up for the days ahead. Let’s see how we get on.
Saw the wonderful Yndi Halda at Hoxton Hall last week, showcasing some new songs in gig which (along with the previous night) was raising funds to pay for a new album. The recent material was fantastic, and it is always a heavenly and transcendental pleasure to hear an old favourite like ‘Dash and Blast‘. Their new bassist fitted in very well indeed too. Here are some pics:
The Thameslink franchise is up for grabs soon and one of the bits that is being bundled into it is the oddity that is the Northern City Line (from Finsbury Park to Moorgate via Essex Road). It’s a bit of useful infrastructure that is woefully underused (not at all during later evenings and weekends) and I strongly feel it should be integrated into the underground network. FCC or its successor could run all its trains from Hertford East or Welwyn into Kings Cross, and the NCL could join up with the old line from Finsbury Park to Muswell Hill (which is now Parkland Walk) to make a useful line comprising thirteen stations and intersecting with the Northern Line (at Highgate, Old Street and Moorgate), London Overground (at H&I and at a new interchange station at Stapleton Hall Road), with the Victoria Line (at H&I and Finsbury Park) and with EC/Thameslink services at Finsbury Park. Current commuters from Harringay out to Hertford etc would have a relatively simple crossover onto the new line at Finsbury Park and ticketing could mean they weren’t disadvantaged by the change.
Someone on wikipedia has done a version of the line in LU style here as it was planned in the 1930s – my version would not be part of the Northern Line – in fact it wouldn’t use underground rolling stock at all (see below) – and would include the extra station at Stapleton Hall Road and is shown below in more of a sketch style! Obviously the loss of Parkland Walk (a lovely green space which I use a lot, though not too useful in actual transit terms) would need to be offset somehow – let’s say by the guarantee of two ‘greenways’ (i.e. for foot and cycle users, with ample space/separation), one for the Highgate/Muswell Hill crowd, and one for the Stroud Green end).
I would be inclined to run it as a DLR type service, since many of the platforms on the northern end would need to be short. A frequent service would be well-used and extremely useful in my view, not only linking parts of London which are somewhat tricky to get between but also getting people into town quickly from some poorly connected areas (Crouch End, Muswell Hill, Tollington). Between the DLR style and the Northern City Line designation, something like the CNLR might be a sensible name for the whole thing.
There’s too much wrong with the London Olympics to go into in any detail at the moment – the categories of ‘commercial rapaciousness’ and ‘egregious authoritarianism’ are full to bursting point. One particularly illustrative example has, though, been today publicised by Ben Goldacre and Cory Doctorow – that LOCOG don’t want you linking to their site unless you are saying nice things about them. Well, like many others, I think they are the scum of the earth, selling out (alongside the IOC) any remaining integrity or romance in sport (not unlike FIFA and UEFA of course) for the benefit of an extractive, undemocratic and self-serving elite. So I’m linking to the Olympics site on that basis.